Happy New Year!
First let me say thank you to all of my patients and colleagues in the healthcare business for making 2019 a great year. I treated more patients than ever before and as always learn so much from talking with my patients and seeing their healing happen.
If you’ve ever seen the Chinese Astrology charts (like on a Chinese Restaurant placemat), you might observe that this is the Year of the Rat, more specifically, the Metal Rat. Learn more about the Chinese Astrology forecast here. But the New Year, in Chinese culture, doesn’t start until later this month on January 25. Why? Because Chinese New Year is really the celebration of the beginning of Spring.
For most of us we consider January mid-winter. It’s cold, and usually rainy here in our area. In the US, we typically say spring officially begins on March 21st, the spring equinox. However the Chinese feel that, energetically, spring begins when the light begins its return, the days start getting longer, and the dormant forces under the frozen ground begin to come to life again. It signifies new beginnings and a fresh start.
For this reason, I usually tell my patients who are eager to implement their new years resolutions, to wait a few weeks until Chinese New Year when the energy of spring is emerging. Wait, what?
Chinese Medicine is based on what we see in nature. For example, when winter arrives, nature enters a process of withdrawal. It’s easy to see everywhere: sap—the vital fluid of the tree—begins to descend, and the trees lose their leaves; birds fly south; the ground hardens and water freezes. Cold slows everything down. As this occurs in nature and it also happens within our bodies. After all, it’s natural law, and we are part of the natural world. Everything in nature enters a period of dormancy. Without this period of rest, there could never be enough energy to produce an emergence of growth in spring. This occurs in our bodies as well! We must rest in winter so our energy can emerge healthy and strong in spring.
Wonder why many fail to stick with a new diet or exercise program right after the new year? This time of year – the end of winter and beginning of spring can make you feel like you’re moving in two directions at the same time. On the one hand, you may want to get up off the couch to exercise, but you feel like hibernating to avoid the cold. What’s going on here?
Let’s look at what I consider to be one of the first signs of spring – the daffodil. The temperatures outside are still cold—yet we see daffodils beginning to pop up! This means it’s energetic juices have begun to flow and have pushed upward and outward through the hardened winter soil to create the colorful form of the flower. This is the true energy of springtime. This energy is moving up and outward in our bodies as well, while the external temperature makes you want to head for shelter and hide.
This rising energy can cause patients to come to me experiencing intense feelings of irritability, often accompanied with anxiety and depression. Statements like “ I’m feeling jumpy and frustrated; something is wrong with me!” are common. These are normal feelings to have, and sometimes we call this “Spring Fever”. There is a famous Zen saying that goes: “Sitting quietly, doing nothing, spring comes and the grass grows by itself.” In other words. It will resolve as spring comes.
Sitting quietly is basically contrary to Western culture however, where we lead fast paced lives, and tend to promote the qualities of vision, leadership, and the ability to take control. We are competitive and we like to “win.” However, forcing ourselves to go against natures directive to wait until spring comes to push forward can create an imbalance in our bodies and mental state. Trying to force yourself to go to the gym, to loose those unwanted pounds in the peak of winter, when you really want to hibernate is going against this natural flow and imbalances can emerge. This imbalance can cause you to want to decide that your best laid plans to get out and exercise is just not going to work.
Spring is associated with the Wood Element and the Liver and Gallbladder in Chinese Medicine. The liver is responsible for storing, cleansing and moving the blood and energy upward and outward. The Liver and Gallbladder are also responsible for the tendons, ligaments and vision among other things. When we are in this period of feeling like we are being pulled out of balance, we can experience things like:
- Muscle tension, prone to have tendon and ligament injuries
- Sciatica (radiating pain from lower back into buttocks and down the leg)
- Headaches, especially migraines
- Irritability and outbursts of anger
- Visual disturbances
- Menstrual irregularities, PMS, fibroids
- Digestive disturbances, including heartburn (GERD), irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers
- High blood pressure, with tendency toward atherosclerosis
During this transition time is a great time to come in for acupuncture. I can help make this time of potential imbalance a lot smoother, calming anxiety and frustration and helping the Liver and Gallbladder to do their job.
So for now, just relax, stay warm and do some gentle movement. Once we reach the end of January, then you can begin to emerge and take advantage of the burst of energy to propel you forward to meet your new years goals.